Board of Health Bans Flavored Cigarette Sales, With Some Exceptions

Starting in July, anyone seeking to buy flavored tobacco cigarettes will have to leave Westford.

In a 3-0-0 vote on Monday, the Board of Health approved new tobacco control regulations that included the ban of all flavored cigarette products.

The ban included exceptions for mint and menthol flavors, and also included an exception for cigar bars and stores that prohibit anyone under 21 from entering.

A decision on the ban was postponed in March after new testimony surrounding electronic cigarettes. However, the time for deliberation solidified the Board of Health’s view that flavored cigarette products are primarily focused toward children.

“I wanted to know more too (in March),” said Board member Sue Hanly. “And the more that you read, the more that this is a no brainer.”

D.J. Wilson, tobacco control director and public health liaison for the Massachusetts Municipal Association, told the board that 51 cities and towns across Massachusetts have initiated bans since late 2013.

Untitled-4Wilson, who also provided details on more expansive bans elsewhere in the country as well as litigation attempting to challenge the bans, agreed with the board’s assessment on flavored cigarettes’ target audience.

“While you could find somebody in Westford who enjoys a fine grape-flavored cigar every night who’s about our age, most of this is all geared toward kids,” he said.

Anna Bettencourt, a representative of the Verc Enterprises, questioned what her company had done to be punished by this ban.

Verc, which operates the Gulf station at Minot’s Corner, has had only one tobacco sale to minors in the past 17 years according to Bettencourt.

Additionally, she argued that gas stations that do not sell tobacco products are seen as having done something wrong to have them taken away in the eyes of consumers.

Also, she argued that customers seeking flavored cigarettes would just travel to nearby towns, or New Hampshire.

Hanly directly challenged this assertion, building on Wilson’s statement that every ban has to start somewhere.

“The one thing I’m really proud about in Westford is we’re not afraid to put things into place that maybe is different than a surrounding town. It does take somebody to do it, so that’s just not a good argument for me,” she said. “And I’m truly sorry if people have to go up to New Hampshire to get it there, but that is not a reason I would not want to pass this and not make our town safer.”

Madvapes, a new electronic cigarette store located at Westford Plaza, was acknowledged as within the “adult-only” exemption to the new regulations.

In addition to the ban, Madvapes owner Tom Patel was notified that the regulations also prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes within the store as well as the mixing of “juices” that are used to create flavors within the electronic cigarettes sold on site.